Logistics has changed immeasurably in recent generations. Even the last 50 years have seen the face of transportation for goods go from an industry that had some severe limitations, to one that, depending on the type of logistics you are looking at, is almost limitless in its ability.
Go back to the 1920s, and the biggest challenge for most logistics companies would have been fragile freight, and how to safely transport packages from point A to point B in one piece. The idea of transporting goods that are temperature-dependent was only realized in any meaningful way in the mid-1930s, as the refrigerated truck came into existence, courtesy of inventor Fred Jones.
While there were some options in large ships as early as 1880, the humble refrigerated truck was the technology that really took temperature-dependent logistics into the modern era, with food and medical good, in particular, taking advantage of the ability to be transported anywhere on the planet, and arrive in a usable state.
The importance of constant temperatures
In the ultra-modern era, logistics and supply chains are run at mind-boggling levels of complexity, with temperature monitoring systems being at the heart of food, pharmaceutical, and chemical transportation, the world over. Elevated temperatures, or sometimes drops in temperature, can mean food spoils, and more importantly, drugs alter their physical properties.
When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, spoiled drugs are not just an issue for the manufacturer to worry about, as drugs that have not been properly maintained during transportation can be extremely dangerous for a user, or completely ineffective – something that the current pandemic is wrestling with. Hence, modern logistics and supply chains are an extremely tightly run industry, that leans heavily on technology to help keep the metaphorical wheels spinning for these hugely important parts of our society.
When it comes to medicines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set strict standards for the recommended temperature ranges for various different vaccines and treatments, which can be monitored and verified by using a data logger for 30 days during transit and storage.
In years gone by temperatures were checked only during the loading and unloading of the freight, modern cold chain monitoring (CCM) systems keep a real-time record of temperatures for the entirety of the journey. Transmitters onboard the trucks, or sometimes on individual pallets, monitor temperature constantly, making new data available for upload to a central hub every ten minutes, enabling a head office to see any issues if and when they arise, with minimal lag times.
Not only is this particularly useful for seeing if goods arrive in a usable state, or have been compromised, but it also allows a company to identify weak links in a logistics chain. In previous generations, if a product arrived spoiled, it was guesswork as to where exactly the issue manifested. Now, with such accurate data of when the temperature has dropped during transit, problem areas can be pinpointed with precision, issues resolved quickly, and negligent logistics partners taken to task.
The ability to react in real-time
Of course, it isn’t always the fault of the logistics companies when issues arise in regards to sensitive freight. Delays from traffic, border controls, or weather conditions can all contribute to longer transit times than expected, and CCM can allow those who need to trust in logistics, to put their minds at ease when inevitable issues arise.
Advances in this technology have also provided various degrees of monitoring, where companies that only need a basic overview of temperature during transit can pay for a less robust service, while those who are legally required to have the highest level of monitoring possible also have the ability to log statistics constantly throughout a trip.
Advances in mobile phone technology and RFID-based solutions also provide different options for data transfer depending on how quickly the data is needed to be available. Couple this with modern analytical infrastructure that some CCM solutions provide with regards to weather and traffic reports, and you have an extremely useful set of data that allows a company to react to issues in real-time, rather than retrospectively.
Temperature monitoring and logistics in general have improved in their efficiency immeasurably over the last half a century, and it is hard to imagine the modern world functioning in anywhere near the same way if these improvements hadn’t been made. No longer is the world of freight simply a case of bringing a product to its intended destination, but instead is a complex, highly data-driven industry that forms the backbone of our modern society.
Make no mistake – temperature monitoring systems, and their improvements over the years, are a huge part of what makes the world such an interconnected, and united place.